With just over a month to go until Election Day on 7 May, we take a closer look at the political parties and what the current polls are really saying.
The House of Commons has 650 seats and to form a majority government, a party has to win at least 326 of these seats. If a single party fails to reach this majority, as was the case in 2010 when a coalition was subsequently formed, there will be another hung parliament. It looks like that's where the current election is heading.
At the moment, the Conservatives are level pegging with Labour at around 34 per cent in the latest polling data for the 2015 General Election from the BBC. If the election results are reflective of the current close percentage, neither party would reach a majority vote. This makes the other parties' percentages increasingly relevant.
The Liberal Democrats are holding their position at around 9 per cent, but with their place in the coalition government, this figure will certainly alter closer to the election; the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has been shifting back and forth since January, but is currently running between 13 to 16 per cent. However, the prospects of UKIP obtaining the necessary number of seats on the 7 May looks bleak, and they will be lucky to hold the current two seats they have gained.
The Green Party is also trailing behind with an average between 4 and 6 per cent. These figures are putting the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) in the driving seat when it comes to a potential union of forces; they are still polling well and their anti-union vote has strengthened within the Scottish constituencies. It is more than likely they will play the deciding role for who becomes Prime Minister in the case of coalition.
So who are the leaders behind the parties and what are they actually promising to do for the UK?
David Cameron: the Conservatives are focussing on the economy. Since coming to power in the coalition of 2010, they have reduced the UK's deficit, but have not cleared it, as they promised in the last election. According to The Guardian, they have taken the UK's deficit, which was about £153 billion to around £91 billion, or in other terms, from 10 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (a country's economical monetary value), to just 5 per cent.
However, the Conservatives have faced concern about their tag-line "tax cuts for 30 million people," where they intend to increase the starting point for tax payment to £10,500 in the year following the election and then subsequently increase it to around £12,500. While it looks good in theory, on paper the tax cut only stands to benefit the middle-earners, and those earning less don't stand to benefit at all, at a cost of £7 billion. They are also campaigning to improve the standard of living, helping buyers onto the property ladder and to create a more successful education system.
Nigel Farage: UKIP are running with a political campaign that calls for stronger policies on EU immigration and an immediate referendum to vote whether the UK should stay as part of the EU. They are also aiming to increase personal allowance to £13,500 before tax by the next election, abolish inheritance tax, cut the foreign aid budget by £9 billion a year, and ensure that visitors to the UK and migrants have NHS-approved private health insurance until they have paid National Insurance for five years, saving the NHS £2 billion a year. This same five-year restriction will apply to those eligible for benefits, and permanent UK residence will not be granted for 10 years. In light of the prospective coalition, according to a report from the BBC, Farage would do a post-election deal with the Conservatives, should they face a minority, if they agreed to hold the EU referendum before Christmas 2015.
Nick Clegg: the Liberal Democrats are partitioning for what they have deemed social equality and a fairer society, looking into the issue of fairer pay and the wage gap between the sexes. They are also are making plans to safeguard the NHS, put an extra £2.5 billion into the education system, increase pensions, create a firm-but-fair system regarding immigration and have proposed five Green Laws to protect the environment long-term.
Ed Miliband: Labour is focussed on the NHS, promising to pledge another £2.5 billion per year into the health service to protect it against further privatisation. In a recent BBC report, this includes jobs for 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more doctors, 5,000 care workers and 3,000 more midwives. They propose to pay for the changes through a mansion tax, targeted at those whose homes exceed £2 million in value.
Although the figures are over-simplified on their website, Labour claims that they stand to raise about £1.2 billion from the tax increase, which equates to an additional £250-a-month council tax for homes worth £2-3 million. They have also promised higher living standards for working families, controls on immigration, aid for people trying to get on the property ladder, support for working families paying child care and capping energy prices.
Nicola Sturgeon: the SNP are campaigning for an independent Scotland; following the referendum last year, their main aim is to gain independence from the United Kingdom. Their biggest policy is the non-renewal of Trident, the UK's nuclear- deterrent, and the proposed banning of all nuclear weapons from Scottish soil.
Sturgeon is adamant that her party will never vote to renew Trident. Sturgeon recently told The Guardian that, like Farage and the Conservatives, a post-election deal could happen with Labour. This is despite the clash of opinion concerning Scotland's nuclear weapons. The Guardian also reports that the SNP is predicted to take nearly all 40 Labour seats from Scotland, meaning that a Labour-SNP alliance, regardless of a larger vote for the Conservatives, would deliver a majority government. In this case, Sturgeon will not rule out another Scottish Independence referendum.
Natalie Bennett: the Green Party's policies are aimed at providing a more equal society and a better environmental consciousness. The party proposes a fair economy where everyone has access to a living wage, a public NHS, a de-privatisation of public transport, secure and affordable housing, and also reiterates the all-too-familiar promise to scrap university tuition fees. The party's website also details their strong views on the proportionality of government spending on military preparations and their call for immediate and unconditional nuclear disarmament.
As is becoming increasingly clear, what these current poll numbers and promises of post-election deals really demonstrate, is that voters are becoming disenchanted with the two-horse political race; they are looking beyond the promises of the Conservatives and Labour and branching out their political interests. The numbers are too low to bring any alternative smaller parties into a majority power, but without the possibility of a majority vote, we will be forced to look beyond the big two to their potential supporting parties, as we inevitably head towards another coalition.
Words: Martin Brown and Katie Aske